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Should Steroids Be Taken With Food? (Advice From a Doctor)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

Many athletes take steroid drugs for right and wrong reasons. And as a personal trainer, I’ve had to learn about all the effects that my clients could face.

One of the more commonly prescribed steroids for some of my clients has been an oral version, and I had an interesting conversation with one of these people about how and when they take it.

It turns out that there are some specific medical recommendations. So I decided to spend some time with a doctor to see whether you should always take oral steroids with food.

Quick Summary

  • Some commonly prescribed oral steroids have quite a significant effect on your stomach that can cause bloating and nausea.
  • Understanding these effects and how to get your intake timing right can significantly help you understand what to look out for during treatment.
  • There are also ways to completely avoid such stomach problems that can happen with strong drugs.

What Happens If You Take Steroids Without Food?

An athlete leaning against a wall

When you take oral steroids like Prednisone without food, you can develop gastric and digestive issues.

This can range from mild bloating to cramping and nausea to vomiting and significant discomfort [1].

Having spoken to a few clients who have had oral steroids prescribed, they all had slightly different experiences.

Some reported that they felt nauseated and sick within half an hour of taking them without food, while others said it sometimes took several hours.

The other interesting thing to keep in mind is that the chances of stomach issues are far greater if you’re also taking certain pain medications like ibuprofen or aspirin [2].

This is an important factor to consider, especially for people who take such anti-inflammatory drugs in combination to deal with joint issues.

“Side-effects are more likely to occur if you take a long course of oral steroids (more than 2-3 months), or if you take short courses repeatedly.”

- Dr. Colin Tidy at Patient.info

Related: How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?

Tips for Avoiding Side Effects

One of the most important things with taking oral steroids is that you need to take a careful look at when you take the tablets, especially if you’re taking other medication as well.

The medical advice on this is to avoid taking oral at the same time as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) [3].

This would be common for people with injuries and arthritic joint problems who also take pain medication to reduce inflammation.

What you should do here is spread out the intake of the drugs over several hours.

One option would be to take the steroid to reduce inflammation just before breakfast in the morning and then wait for an hour or two to take an anti-inflammatory with a small snack.

For most people, this will be enough to avoid stomach issues, but if you still experience discomfort and nausea, then talk to your doctor about possible alternative treatment options.

Related Articles:

Alternatives to Oral Steroids

A buff male looking at a black bottle

If oral steroids are causing too many stomach-related side effects, then it might be best to consider some alternative options.

First of all, you should talk to your doctor about possible injectable steroids.

But this will only be an option if you're taking the drugs for legitimate medical reasons in the first place.

However, there are also risks of taking such steroids, and the side effects might be more severe.

What I would say to athletes who are taking steroids for performance gains and to help with aches and pains is to stop taking them straight away.

The risks for stomach ulcers and organ failure are serious [4].

What you should consider instead is a natural supplement that has performance and endurance benefits but without nasty side effects.

While they aren’t suitable for medical treatments, they can help athletes gain a competitive edge.

FAQs

When Should You Not Take Steroids?

You should not take steroids if you’re fighting some form of infection or trying to heal wounds [5].

Most steroids can suppress your immune system, and reducing its effectiveness could seriously impact your ability to heal or fight infections.

What to Avoid While on Steroids?

Avoid eating simple carbs like sugar while on steroids.

These drugs can have an impact on spiking your blood sugar levels even more, which can lead to more fat storage and even diabetes [6].

Take a Sensible Approach to Steroids

There are many medical reasons to take oral steroids, but you should only do so after discussing the impacts with your doctor.

Self-prescribing these drugs can lead to many different side effects.

The best thing is that you can get many of the benefits without having to take risks.

We’ve reviewed the best legal steroids available and tested their effectiveness to come up with this list.

These natural supplements won’t work as fast as medical drugs, but once you take them for a few weeks, you’ll notice considerable differences in your bulking without all the nasty side effects.


References:

  1. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/8-prednisone-side-effects-how-to-minimize-them
  2. https://www.drugs.com/slideshow/prednisone-faq-1088
  3. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_steroid-side-effects-how-to-reduce-corticosteroid-side-effects.asp
  4. https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/153/11/1089/64676
  5. https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/treatments/drugs/steroids
  6. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/ild-nutrition-manual-prednisone-and-weight-gain
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